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Tue Jan 24, 2012, 07:47 AM

Walsh: Mitt pounces, Newt pouts: Two rich guys squabble

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 5:45 AM UTC

Gingrich gets "sad" about "personal, nasty" attacks as Romney tax returns show he paid 13.9 percent on $21 million
By Joan Walsh

Newt Gingrich clearly missed the rabid South Carolina crowds at Monday night’s debate. NBC asked the Tampa, Fla. audience not to cheer, and mostly they didn’t, leaving Gingrich listless without angry mob energy. He didn’t bash the media the way he did in last week’s Fox and CNN debates, and he tried to act presidential when Mitt Romney jabbed him about his work for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

But he failed. Presidents don’t pout. A sulky Gingrich complained the GOP campaign had become “unnecessarily personal and nasty, and that’s sad.” Gingrich objecting to “personal and nasty” is as believable as Romney pretending he does his own laundry. That’s really sad. But Romney had the better night, hitting Gingrich early and often for having to resign the House speakership “in disgrace” due to ethics charges. And when Gingrich tried to claim he left his leadership post voluntarily, Ron Paul double-teamed him with Romney. “He didn’t have the votes, that was what the problem was,” Gingrich’s former House colleague told the crowd.

Also Monday night, Romney made partial tax returns available to reporters. They showed he paid a rate of 13.9 percent in 2011 and 2010, on income of around $21 million both years. That means in a single day, Romney earned more than the median income for U.S. workers, just over $31,000. He paid a lower tax rate than workers making $40,000 to $50,000, because his income came from investments (somehow it seems he didn’t have to declare the $374,000 he made last year from speaking fees; it’s still not clear how he dodged that.) Tuesday morning the focus will be back on Romney’s shamefully low tax rate, and the way he earned his wealth at Bain Capital. Monday night he got his licks in on Gingrich.

Romney hammered Gingrich hard on some financial information Gingrich released Monday: his contract with Freddie Mac. While Gingrich insists he didn’t lobby, Romney noted that his newly released contract showed he was hired by the firm’s chief lobbyist. “We have congressmen who say you lobbied them,” he told his rival. “I didn’t lobby them,” Gingrich shot back, his voice getting high and whiny the way it did when that Iowa voter told him he was a disgrace to his party last spring. At one point he fell awkwardly silent. “You can call it whatever you like, I call it influence peddling,” Romney concluded. Score that round for the wealthy former frontrunner.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

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